General Election 2020: NALA’s six policy recommendations

Literacy changes lives. Unmet adult literacy and numeracy needs have devastating consequences for individuals, communities and the economy and are a factor in social exclusion and inequality. Literacy and numeracy shape individual life chances and have an impact on health and wellbeing, work, social and community and family life.

Why we need to address literacy?

Low literacy costs. Strong literacy pays.

The most recent international skills survey shows that 520,000 people aged 16 to 64 find reading and understanding everyday texts difficult: for example, reading a leaflet, bus timetable or medicine instructions. 754,000 people have difficulties using maths in everyday life for example, basic addition, subtraction and calculating averages.

This has a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities. Unmet literacy and numeracy needs costs everyone: our society, economy and environment, financially and democratically. 

Strong literacy pays. Since the 1980s we have worked in partnership with learners, tutors, government departments, public services and others to advance adult literacy policy and practice. This work is supported by evidence-based research which examines international best practice, reviews Irish policy and produces recommendations to support people with unmet literacy, numeracy and digital skills needs.


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What do we need now?

NALA has six recommendations to improve adult literacy, numeracy and digital skills. 

  1. Appoint a Junior Minister for lifelong learning and literacy.
  2. Develop a creative, ambitious and aligned Whole-of-Government Strategy for literacy, numeracy and digital skills over the next 10 years.
  3. Introduce a Plain Language Act to require government and public services to communicate in plain English that the public can understand and use.
  4. All adults with literacy, numeracy and digital needs and or less than a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 4 qualification should have access to a high quality and relevant learning programme with a local education and training provider that meets the person’s literacy development needs. This would include intensive and flexible options; appropriate supports as required (income, transport, child and elder care), work placement where appropriate and progression opportunities. 
  5. Develop new and innovative ways to improve literacy such as: 
    • blended and distance learning, 
    • family literacy, financial literacy, health literacy and media literacy programmes,
    • bridging programmes to prepare people for other training, and
    • integrating literacy into vocational education and training programmes.
  6. Introduce a targeted paid learning leave programme for employees in work with unmet literacy, numeracy and digital needs and or less than a QQ Level 4 qualification to develop these skills if they wish to do so. 
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